Mr. Kurt A. Summers, Jr., Chicago’s City Treasurer, is a consummate professional and is well suited for the job of City Treasurer. He is a graduate of Whitney Young High School, holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis, and he holds an MBA from the Harvard School of Business.
In the 16 years since finishing Harvard Summers has worked in investment banking, corporate leadership and public service. He began his career at McKinsey & Company, he has been an investment banker at Goldman Sachs & Company, served as a Principal at Tidal Capital Partners, Chief Financial Officer, Head of Business Development at Balton Corporation, and as Management Director at Ryan Specialty Group, LLC.
When he served a Senior Vice President of Grosvenor Capital Management he was a member of the Office of the Chairman, where he led the Emerging and Diverse Manager business group that invested over $2 billion in minority and women owned businesses.
His experience in public and government includes his service as Aide to the Chief of Staff for the Governor of Illinois. Prior to being appointed to the office of City Treasurer, he served as Chief of Staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. He also served as Chief of Staff for Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympic Games bid. Lastly, he has served on the board of Navy Pier and Co-chair of the Friends of Lucas Museum.
Thus, when asked what led him to leave the corporate world to enter public and government service. He answered, “I grew up in Bronzeville, a neighborhood that has suffered from disinvestment for years. Also in that neighborhood was Sam Patch, my grandfather, who was a close confidante to Mayor Washington. The Mayor was like an uncle to me. He and my grandfather taught me that no matter how successful you are, how much money you make, you have an obligation to use your talents to benefit your community. I’ve had some great opportunities in my career to be of service, from being Toni Preckwinkle’s Chief of Staff to being the Chief of Staff for the 2016 Summer Olympics. There’s been no greater calling to serve than this! It’s true that my wife and I made a tremendous financial sacrifice, but if there is ever a time when it’s needed it’s now! I‘ve known since I was 16 years old that I wanted to build my craft, my expertise in finance, and use that to find ways to help my community.”
Given the rigors and criticism of being in public office, how does he cope with these pressures? “Those are the challenges that make the goal of transforming how we invest in our Chicago, and I’ve made it a priority to be transparent and held accountable to the people of Chicago who hired me for this role,” said Mr. Summers.
What about the Mayor’s Budget Proposal and the $500 million property tax increase? “Just like our City Council members who will be asked to vote on the budget, I’m waiting to see how this is all presented at the end of this month. There are many options on the table, and the Mayor has indicated that he is willing to entertain any of them,” he insisted. Further, he says “In my office, we’ve identified tens of millions of dollars of additional revenue for next year’s budget, we’ve gotten seven of the local pension plans to agree to a fee savings initiative which can save Chicago taxpayers $25-$50 million a year and $1-$2 billion in pension savings over the lifetime of the plans. We all have to do our part and leverage our expertise to help solve this fiscal challenge.”
Some wonder if Mr. Summers and the Mayor are a good match for the task of confronting the city’s finance. He quickly retorts, “While it is my belief that we’re all in this together, each of us have a part to play in chipping away at the City’s financial constraints. In the Treasurer’s Office, we are focused on generating more revenue to help out budget crisis and maintain sorely needed resources for public services. I spent my entire career studying and working in finance and I believe that my experience and training can be of service to the residents.”
“The city is in need of $750 million to close a budget hole, including what’s needed to cover payments to the police and fire pension funds. This is a very real and urgent situation and we will have a better idea of what’s to come after the bud- get presentation less than two weeks from now,” Summers said.
When asked about rumors that he will be a future candidate for mayor, he refused to address the mayoral candidacy and answered, “Being your Treasurer during a critical time in our City’s history and being able to put my entire life’s work and experience to use when it’s most needed is a dream opportunity to give back to the city that’s given me everything. This is 100 percent of my focus and this is absolutely the best job I’ve ever had.”